Can you think of a time in your life when things were so chaotic that you wondered “Is God here?“ A death, divorce, terminal diagnosis, a national event like 9/11, or anything currently happening in America might cause you to ask such a thing. Anytime we sustain a shock to our system we are tempted to question God’s presence and activity.
Such was the case with the struggling Israelites as they made their way across the desert. Tired, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, they quickly forgot how God had just delivered them from certain death in Egypt. They voice their fear that they might be looking at certain death in the wilderness:
Exodus 17 (The Message)
1-2 Directed by God, the whole company of Israel moved on by stages from the Wilderness of Sin. They set camp at Rephidim. And there wasn’t a drop of water for the people to drink. The people took Moses to task: “Give us water to drink.” But Moses said, “Why pester me? Why are you testing God?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses, “Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here with our children and animals to die of thirst?”
When they looked at their immediate circumstances, it indeed seemed as though God was absent. Their thirst and exhaustion were the only things they could see. Any hope for the future based on the deliverance in their past was wiped from their minds. Desperation set in.
Have you ever been in that kind of wilderness where all you could see was pain and despair and you forgot how God had loved you through your wilderness wanderings in times past? It is easy to forget.
4 Moses cried out in prayer to God, “What can I do with these people? Any minute now they’ll kill me!”
5-6 God said to Moses, “Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.”
You see, the people hadn’t arrived at their final destination yet. They needed to keep moving forward. They needed to be obedient to God’s call to become his people and follow his way. They needed to have a smidge more faith. God was trying to lead them out of their thirst and into a land flowing with milk and honey…they just needed to keep moving forward.
6-7 Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, “Is God here with us, or not?”
Where is God telling you right now to just keep moving forward? What circumstance has you so momentarily paralyzed that you have forgotten his goodness to you in the past?
God goes before you. If you look up with the eyes of faith, you are sure to spot him there on the rock where the waters of peace, hope, justice, and consolation await. Is God here with you? You betcha.